When reading this list, take into account that I was born in the late 1980s. So when I feel nostalgic about a game, it’s about Banjo-Kazooie and not something like Super Mario Bros or Pac-Man. I still think Super Mario Bros and Pac-Man are fun games, and if I was born 10 or 15 years earlier they’d probably make this list. They were just before my time. That is why my list is 90s and 2000s-centric.
Calling this a “Top 11” is a bit of a stretch since I include about 20 games if you count expansions.
11. ESPN NFL 2k5 – I know, it’s crazy to include a sports simulation on a “best games ever” list…but honestly, this is the only game on this list that I still play regularly. This is definitely a different game from Madden, and if you ask me it’s a lot more fluid and responsive to what you tell it to do. The extra additions like Sportscenter after every week in franchise were a nice touch, too.
10. Bioshock – Usually when a game tries to blend Shooting and RPG elements, the result is uneven. Either the game concentrates primarily on the shooting and the RPG elements don’t have a noticeable effect, or the game concentrates mainly on the RPG elements and the shooting itself sucks. Here, it blended the two perfectly. The shooting is among the best you’ll see in a game, and the RPG elements were awesome to use. You can go through this game using a completely different strategy each time because of all the different powers you can use. Very rarely can that type of thing happen in a shooter.
Plus, the water in this game is pretty.
9. Kid Chameleon – Usually when people talk about side-scrolling Genesis games they’ll talk about Sonic, Streets of Rage, Comix Zone, or something like that…but this game is often left out of the discussion and I have no idea why. This is not an easy game (though it is easier than Comix Zone) and it’s almost impossible to beat it unless you’re using save states or something. But still, it’s really fun to play over and over again to see if you can get past the level you died on last time (for me, this usually ended up being the first level with the ****ing moving wall).
8. Warcraft 3 (and Frozen Throne expansion) – I don’t have anything against WoW, but if you ask me this is the best game with “Warcraft” in the title. It took parts from earlier Blizzard games Diablo (Heroes) & Starcraft (RTS) and blended them very well. Playing this online with the leveling system and daily tournaments was really fun. And then there were the custom maps such as DotA, which added a lot of replay value to the game.
7. Guild Wars – This is different from other games in this genre like World of Warcraft or Diablo II. In those games, the emphasis is on leveling your characters up as much as possible. Here, the level cap is set at 20 so it’s much more focused on strategy. Soloing this game is impossible to do; you will need to work well with others in order to get a lot of the later missions accomplished. I might’ve put more hours into this than any other game on this list.
6. Command and Conquer: Red Alert, Red Alert 2, and Red Alert 2: Yuri’s Revenge (expansion) – I like playing these games for the skirmishes against the computer more than the actual missions. The basebuilding and amassing a giant army to just crush your opponent is really fun to do. The reason Yuri’s Revenge makes the list and not any of the first Red Alert’s expansions is because Yuri’s Revenge added so much to Red Alert 2. I don’t think there’s ever been a better expansion than Yuri’s Revenge.
5. Rare’s awesome N64 platformers – This includes Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Tooie, Donkey Kong 64, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. I didn’t want them to take up more than one spot on the list since they’re basically all slightly different versions of each other (except for Conker, but in Conker at least the gameplay was similar). This is just platforming at its best; in 99% of platformers, collecting crap is tedious and annoying to do. In these games, collecting was actually fun to do. If I had to choose just one, I’d pick Banjo-Kazooie.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – I know, it’s cliche to put Ocarina of Time on this list since it’s on every single list like this. But just like The Godfather when it comes to movies, this is something that deserves all the praise it gets. If it wasn’t for the ****ing water temple, this might be higher up on the list — that temple is just ridiculously hard to get through.
3. Pokemon Red/Blue – Don’t laugh; the Pokemon games are great and really hard to put down. You keep wanting to level up one of your pokemon one more level, win one more badge, or catch a certain pokemon that’s rare. I think part of what makes the pokemon games so fun is how flexible it allows you to be with your party. You can beat the game with a team that looks completely different from how other people beat the game. Granted, it will be hard to do really well with something like a Ditto in your party — but it’s far from impossible with the right strategy. It takes forever to level your pokemon up to level 100 (if you’re not using the Missingno glitch, anyway) so you can be playing this for a long, long time. The newer games are good too, but I gave Red and Blue the spot since they were the first game to do it.
2. Diablo II (and Lord of Destruction expansion) – There are two ways to play Diablo 2. One way is to be super serious about it, making sure your party is perfectly set up and make sure you put the exact amount of points into certain skills. The other way is to play the way I played — try to solo everything about put skill points into skills you like to use, but won’t necessarily get you the best setup. This strategy will only get you to the second or maybe the beginning of the third difficulty, but I found it really fun to play like that. This is basically the videogame equivalent of crack — you want to keep playing no matter what. You’re always close to achieving something; your character leveling up, finishing a quest, or getting better equipment. Nothing’s cooler than when you kill an enemy in Diablo II and your enemy unexpectedly drops a green or gold weapon.
1. Final Fantasy X – This was my first Final Fantasy game — when I bought it, I didn’t even know what the games were about; I just bought it because they were supposed to be popular and good. This turned out to be basically everything I could want in a Japanese RPG. The characters were mostly pretty good (especially Auron, who is one of the best videogame characters of all-time) and the story is very good. Leveling up the characters via the sphere grid gives flexibility to do whatever you want with them, and it’s a very innovative (and I thought really fun) way of leveling up. I thought the battle system was one of the best I’ve ever seen in a turn-based RPG; the whole bar on the side showing you exactly when someone was going to attack is a great addition. Finally, there was enough stuff to keep you coming back — blitzball, legendary weapons, etc…and then when you’ve basically completed the game, it’s really easy to just start a new file and go through the whole thing again (maybe trying different strategies for different characters) because it doesn’t get old.
Technically speaking, the game was outstanding. The graphics, especially in the cutscenes, were probably the best that the PS2 had at the time (the cutscenes STILL look really good today). And the music really added to the experience; there’s not many games I can say that for.
I didn’t know what game on this list I was going to put at #1, but this is the only game where I wanted to go back and make a new file just after writing about it. So, Final Fantasy X is my favorite game of all-time.